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Date: Sun, 17 Aug 1997 14:40:07 -0700
To: (Recipient list suppressed)
From: Paul Andrew Mitchell [address in tool bar]
Subject: SLS: Luftwaffe's presence at air base seen as boon, bane (fwd)
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>Updated: Sunday, Aug. 17, 1997 at 00:16 CDT
>Luftwaffe's presence at air base seen as boon, bane
>By Barry Shlachter
>Star-Telegram Staff Writer
>ALAMOGORDO, N.M. -- The Muellers live in a new house, swim in a backyard
>pool, drive showroom-fresh sports utility vehicles and are taking their
>second vacation to California in a year.
>Little would distinguish them from many families in the United States except
>for the fact that when 38-year-old Thomas Mueller leaves in the morning, he
>dons fatigues bearing the insignia of the Luftwaffe.
>Since May 1996, Holloman Air Force Base has been home to the German Air
>Force Tactical Training Center USA, which trains pilot instructors on the
>Tornado low-level attack jet.
>The center, whose unit patch depicts the Iron Cross on the New Mexico flag,
>could expand from 12 planes with 750 personnel and dependents to 30
>Tornadoes with 2,100 staff and dependents in three years -- if given the
>go-ahead in December by Air Force Secretary Sheila Widnall.
>Except for some grousing over higher rents caused by the influx, the local
>community has generally viewed the Luftwaffe as an economic boon at a time
>of declining defense spending.
>But ranchers in Texas and New Mexico oppose any expansion that would bring
>more of the ground-hugging, supersonic jets screaming over their cattle.
>Conservationists say proposed bomb targets could harm untouched grasslands.
>And folks convinced of a "one world" conspiracy see the German presence as a
>way to put an American base under U.N. control.
>What lured the Germans here were the clear skies and wide open spaces, said
>the unit's commander, Col. Eckhard Sowada, an affable man with impeccable
>English who finds he must be as much a diplomat as a career officer.
>"In Europe, we have pretty bad weather, crowded airspace and, with a dense
>population, there are flying restrictions," Sowada said.
>If the expansion phase is approved, Sowada's Tornadoes would range as far
>east as Big Bend National Park in Texas and as far west as Arizona.
>"Of all people, why pick the Germans?" asked Ken Roberts, 64, a Phoenix pool
>contractor who retired to Alamogordo six years ago but threatens to leave if
>the German unit grows. "We fought three wars against them -- if you include
>the Hessians during the American Revolution."
>Roberts insists he'd oppose any foreign presence, but said local residents
>traditionally are pro-German.
>Expansion would require a new bombing range at one of two proposed sites in
>Fort Bliss' McGregor Range, located in New Mexico north of El Paso, or the
>use of an existing site, which the Germans reject.
>The Sierra Club says the range contains pristine grasslands and a habitat
>for endangered species. A draft environmental report found few potential
>problems, although noise would be "incompatible" to isolated ranch houses.
>Marianne Thaeler, of Las Cruces, who handles military issues for the Sierra
>Club's Rio Grande chapter, asks why the Germans couldn't use existing
>targets on weekends when U.S. Air Force pilots are off?
>"We have families also," Sowada said. "We don't fly on weekends."
>Ranchers fear that the Tornadoes will wreck windmills, stampede cattle and
>disturb calving.
>"When aircraft are flying between 100 and 300 feet above your ranch, it's an
>intrusion on your personal private rights, not to mention the impact on our
>livestock and the quality of life," said Al Micaleff, 54, owner of Fort
>Worth's Reata Restaurant who has extensive ranch holdings in far West Texas.
>"The fact that they are foreign and will not train over their own soil
>because of restrictions, that's really maddening," Micaleff added.
>Bob Jones, 67, a fifth-generation New Mexico rancher now leading the fight
>against the Luftwaffe, says he doesn't share "paranoid reflections about one
>world government" taking over Holloman.
>But he does believe the U.S. Air Force "has abandoned the moral high ground
>and is prostituting its technology and expertise for the foreign dollar."
>The Internet is abuzz with extremist warnings of Holloman becoming part of a
>United Nations-controlled force.
>Republic of Texas leader Richard McLaren, who claims New Mexico for Texas,
>warned in March that he would place liens on German property if the
>Luftwaffe stayed at Holloman. But McLaren was arrested May 3, before he
>could carry out the threat.
>Except for the occasional angry letter to the editor, Alamogordo itself has
>welcomed the Luftwaffe with open arms, many residents said.
>It's a town with unusual German connections.
>After World War II, the secretive Operation Paperclip spirited V-2 rocket
>scientists out of Germany to boost U.S. technology.
>About 50 guidance specialists were taken to nearby White Sands Proving
>Ground and some 40 ended up settling here with their families, said Mayor
>Don Carroll, whose wife, Rosemarie, is the daughter of a Paperclip
>A city of 30,000 dependent on Holloman's 4,300 personnel, Alamogordo sees
>the Luftwaffe presence as "economic diversity" that might prevent or
>mitigate a future base cutback, said Michael Dalby, the chamber of commerce
>executive director.
>"This is an economic boom for a town this size, no other way to class it,"
>said the Stephenville-reared Dalby.
>German airmen now put about $1 million a month into the local economy.
>Moreover, the unit has spent $42 million of an earmarked $105 million to
>construct on-base facilities while contributing another $33 million toward
>Holloman's running costs, Sowada said, adding: "It's not for free."
>The effect is felt, both good and bad.
>Because all of the Germans live off base -- helped by a hefty housing
>allowance -- their arrival triggered both substantial rent increases and a
>construction boom. And with cars and motorcycles often 30 percent cheaper
>than at home, many have snapped up new and used vehicles.
>"Some of the ranchers don't like the sonic boom but it's music to my ears,"
>smiled George Brockett, 67, whose Waffle & Pancake House has seen business
>jump 10 percent since the Luftwaffe landed.
>The local Albertsons stocked familiar brands of sauerbraten spices and
>potato pancake mix, and schedules weekly store tours in German, said manager
>John Perea, who found German housewives smitten with Hamburger Helper.
>There's soccer, and many of the German adults have organized teams while
>their children joined local leagues and the high school squad. Riner
>Steinhoff, 46, an Alamogordo High teacher and the son of a Paperclip
>scientist, said the new wave of Germans has helped raise the level of play.
>Sowada rode a float in the July 4th parade. Last year, his unit hosted an
>Oktoberfest, flying in a dance troupe and oompah band. It expected 4,000
>guests; 5,000 turned up.
>The Germans say some adjustment is required.
>Unlike the spouses of American servicemen in Germany, Luftwaffe dependents
>here cannot work. The unit commander said this point is being renegotiated.
>"It's a problem with the wives, perhaps our biggest problem," said the Rev.
>Peter Wieschollek, 44, a civilian Lutheran chaplain with the Luftwaffe.
>Wieschollek and his lay Catholic colleague, Hubert Muenchmeyer, who is
>married to an American, say they organize groups of housewives to discuss
>the situation.
>"Isolation is a problem," Muenchmeyer said. "I tell them, "Positiv denken"
>-- Think positive. For some it's difficult. For others, it's a challenge and
>they like it."
>There's a custom Muenchmeyer himself has not quite adjusted to.
>"In Germany, you can sit in a pub, have a beer, enjoy the atmosphere. Here,
>you eat and, when you finish, they expect you to leave," he said.
>Not at the Europa Cafe, a tiny establishment serving sandwiches on
>home-baked `schwarzbrot' -- black bread -- and owned by the German-born wife
>of a U.S. airman at Holloman.
>Curiously, it doesn't attract much Luftwaffe clientele; the Germans
>basically want to sample American or Mexican fare when dining out.
>"My life hasn't changed; it goes on as usual," owner Cristine Boerner Black,
>35, said of her compatriots' presence. "Only when I see those letters to the
>editor -- `Why would we allow Germans to fly over our property when we
>fought two world wars' -- it makes me sad. And it hurts."
>    1997 Fort Worth Star-Telegram -- Terms and Conditions -- Send us your
>                                  Feedback.

Paul Andrew Mitchell                 : Counselor at Law, federal witness
B.A., Political Science, UCLA;  M.S., Public Administration, U.C. Irvine

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